Starting in April 2002, New Jersey welfare recipients began reaching the 60-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits. By November 2002, over 2,000 households had reached this limit. Almost everyone who has reached this time limit has been able to keep getting welfare, at least temporarily. Some people were granted an exemption from the time limit because the welfare agency agreed that they couldn’t work. Other people have been granted a time limit extension based on extreme hardship. Extensions have been limited to a maximum of 12 months.
Many of the people who got an exemption or an extension have already gone off of welfare. Some of these people left welfare because they became employed. Many other people have been terminated or sanctioned for other reasons. Even though these welfare cases closed after the 60-month time limit, these households can reapply for welfare at any time if they need to, and the welfare office must evaluate the application to see if they are eligible for a time limit exemption or an extension, based on current circumstances. All applicants who are denied welfare have the right to ask for a fair hearing to challenge that decision.
Because time limit extensions have been limited to a maximum of 12 months, some families and individuals were scheduled to reach the end of the extension period and scheduled to be cut off starting in April 2003. However, the Department of Human Services has announced plans to temporarily continue Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) benefits for welfare recipients whose 12-month extension will end between April 2003 and August 2003. The agency will extend benefits for these households until September 2003.
Welfare participants facing time limits can get free legal help from the Legal Services office in their county and from LSNJ-LAW, the statewide toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529).
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2003 issue of Looking Out for Your Legal Rights®.
This information last reviewed February 2003.